It is a great pleasure to be present with you here in Belgrade and to welcome participants at the 20th Anniversary conference of the Tempus programme.
I feel honoured to open this event, which gathers participants from more than fifty countries on three different continents from Rabat to Vladivostok.
I would also like to thank the Serbian authorities for their support in organising this conference, attended by high-level representatives of the Tempus partner countries.
As the Commissioner responsible for both the enlargement and neighbourhood policy of the European Union, I consider international cooperation in higher education a vital instrument in both policies.
Let me start by emphasising the role of education as a key factor for socio-economic development. In nowadays economies, societies need to invest more in their human resources.
This is the reason why education is a major component of the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to foster development, enhance international competitiveness, economic growth, social cohesion and democracy.
The Europe 2020 strategy is not only relevant inside the EU, it can also offer considerable potential to enlargement and neighbourhood countries, and thus help anchor your own reform efforts.
Education contributes to social cohesion, equity and the transmission of values and knowledge, which are essential for the development of modern democratic and prosperous societies.
Higher education is a cornerstone to such a strategy.
It plays an essential role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge, in preparing future generations to become active citizens, active social and economic actors, in training future trainers at all level of the education system. Any initiative in the sector has an impact on society and the economy at large.
Tempus is a unique instrument towards achieving this objective. It is the oldest international cooperation programme of the EU in the field of education.
Tempus has been a success story for 20 years. It is a vibrant and effective catalyst for higher education reform across all its 56 participating countries. It focuses on actions that favour long terms systemic reform such as quality enhancement, developing academic management skills and enhancing student participation in higher education.
Like any success story, Tempus relies on dedicated persons to whom I would like to address my sincere gratitude, namely all national Tempus officers or national Tempus contact points. You are a strong bridge between Brussels and your country; you contribute to fulfilling European strategic objectives.
Over the past 20 years, Tempus has contributed directly to undoing the artificial education divisions both within Europe and its neighbourhood.
It has re-established Europe’s academic contact with Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Mediterranean. It has created strong and viable cooperation links in higher education that now function as platforms for exchange of knowledge, know-how and most importantly - free academic debate.
At a time the EU reflects on its future external policies, it is appropriate to analyse the achievements of such a programme and discuss possible improvements. Tempus is a reference model but it can also be improved.
The aim of the conference is therefore to review the achievements of the Programme over the past twenty years and to share information about future developments. It will provide a unique opportunity for policy representatives, policy makers and practitioners to exchange experiences and points of view.
The objective is also to raise awareness about the potential of the programme especially for those who are not familiar with this instrument and ensure their support at national level.
I would like to welcome the fact that Serbia hosts this important event. The Serbian authorities have over the last decade engaged in a major reform of the higher education system.
Serbia is one of the major Partner Countries in Tempus. It reached the point where most Tempus initiatives are now taken, implemented and managed locally thanks to the commitment of the various stakeholders.
In this process the support of Mr. Obradovic, Serbian Minister of Education and Science, that of the Ministry of Education, of the National Tempus Office in Serbia and of all other institutions involved is crucial.
Moreover, Serbia is now the leading Tempus Partner country in terms of the number of projects coordinated by Serbian higher education institutions.
As I have mentioned Tempus has been active across the Western Balkans and the broader neighbourhood. Under Tempus IV, from 2007 to 2013, a total of over 235 million EUR in funding has been allocated to about 236 projects.
Tempus has managed to achieve some very positive results in terms of encouraging reform and the process of modernisation in individual universities, faculties and departments and these positive changes have had knock-on effects and indirect benefits. The impact of exposure to an EU environment on university staff has been profound and far-reaching.
More than this, and this is particularly important given events in the Southern Mediterranean, Tempus serves as a platform for discussion and action on how best to address university governance, encourage creativity and innovation and how to match higher education provision and investment to future labour market needs.
Recent changes of historical importance have reminded us all of how important the higher education and exchange of students is for process of transition from autocracies to democracies. We are expected to deliver more on this issue and rights. And we need to deliver on these expectations of people to acquire more equity and dignity.
Tempus is a tangible ‘people to people’ programme with both high impact and policy visibility. It is a practical expression of what Europe means with the term “people to people contact”
We expected to deliver more on this issue and we are working hard on it. We understand the need to deliver on these expectations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the achievements of the Tempus programme are many and varied. I have sought to highlight just the main achievements in the specific context of the EU's enlargement neighbourhood policies.
Extending the democratic and social values of the European Union and securing the peace, stability and prosperity of its neighbourhood is not only a strategic interest of the EU, but also that of the Tempus partner countries represented here today.
It is also a real day to day interest for each and every one of us.
We have developed these policies, which not only help the European Union directly meet its economic and social priorities, but also the beneficiaries of EU support in achieving their objectives towards sustainable reforms.
These are policies which have been successful in the past. I am certain that their future is even brighter.
Let me finally wish you a successful conference and fruitful discussion. I am confident that the analysis of Tempus' achievements would provide good food for thought in designing its future.